Christmas Fire Safety at Work
Christmas is a wonderful and magical time of the year for social gatherings with family, friends and colleagues. Everyone young and old can come together to celebrate, exchange gifts, eat, drink and be merry!
However, among the merriment and rejoicing, it’s extremely important to stay on top of fire safety at work at all times and be extra vigilant during the festivities. Christmas brings a unique set of fire risks that you may only encounter once a year.
So, to help you keep your business and family safe over the festive season, our Fire Safety Angels have put together their top 12 picks for fire risks at Christmas, both at work and in the home.
Here are their top 12 for fire safety at work:
- Christmas Lights
- Christmas trees & decorations
- Evacuating safely
- Advice for carers
- Fire doors
- Fire detection & testing
Christmas Fire Safety Enquiry
- Ensure that any lights you use to decorate your office and Christmas trees have been portable appliance tested (PAT) by a competent person. And if they’ve been stored in a cupboard or warehouse since last Christmas, it’s vital that they are tested!
- Never position lights next to flammable materials – lights generate heat!
- Always use lights that conform to British Standards (BS EN 60598).
- Don’t use indoor lights outside as they will not be resistant to moisture.
- Extra lights mean more plugs. Avoid overloading electrical sockets which is a definite fire hazard. And take care not to trail cables across floors where people might trip.
- Always include a transformer between plugs and lights.
- Use an RCD (residual current device) on outdoor electrical equipment. If a fault occurs, the RCD instantly switches off the power and can save lives.
- Many Christmas decorations are produced using highly flammable materials. Take care when you choose yours and always check that you’re using flame resistant/fire retardant products.
- Avoid decorations made of light tissue paper or cardboard as these can burn easily.
- Don’t attach decorations to lights or heaters which can easily ignite flammable materials.
- Decorations made of metal must not be fastened to, or placed in close proximity to, any electrical fitting as they can conduct electricity.
- Don’t obstruct emergency signs and notices when putting up decorations.
- Remember that computer equipment can easily heat up, so don’t obstruct the air flow by wrapping decorations around PCs, laptops and printers.
- When drinking alcohol to excess our judgment and decision making ability becomes impaired. Many fires over Christmas are alcohol related which means standard safety checks and processes may not be carried out correctly or effectively.
- It shouldn’t need saying, but don’t drink and drive! Please don’t be tempted to drink in the pub at lunchtime or after work as drink driving ruins lives.
- If you are organising office Christmas parties, it’s a good idea to make sure soft drinks and alcohol-free options are available.
- And don’t get caught out by still being over the limit the next morning. Parties can go on into the small hours but your body needs time to process the alcohol you’ve drunk.
- You must be registered or have a licence to store fireworks.
- You must also have a ‘licence to sell fireworks’ if you intend to sell them outside the usual fireworks period (i.e. Bonfire Night)
- The Fireworks Regulations 2004 require you to display a sign where fireworks are supplied stating that it is illegal to sell adult fireworks or sparklers to anyone under 18 or for anyone under 18 to possess ‘adult’ fireworks in a public place.
- Always store fireworks safely – they are highly dangerous if stored incorrectly.
- Never sell to under 18’s – if you do and you are caught, you will lose your licence.
- Review your fire risk assessment and practice fire drills regularly.
The second largest cause of fire in domestic, industrial and commercial properties is electrical faults in appliances (such as fairy lights). Here is our guide to staying safe (while feeling festive) this Christmas:
- Lights must conform to British or European standards. Check for a BS or CN number on the transformer, such as BS EN6059.
- Reducing the voltage (and therefore the shocks) that powers your equipment is a good idea. You can use transformers which reduce the voltage to 24v or less.
- Examine your appliances each year before you use them use: are they in good condition with no exposed wiring and the correct rated fuse?
- Make sure all equipment is earthed correctly or has double insulation (look out for a symbol of a square inside a square).
- And finally, be extra vigilant of portable heaters which are often used in cold weather; don’t put them close to furnishings or other flammable materials.
- Does your business have an evacuation plan in place?
- Did you know that a fire emergency evacuation plan is a legal requirement?
- The plan – which usually takes the form of a written document – includes actions to be taken by all staff and nominated persons in the event of a fire and arrangements for calling the fire brigade.
- For small premises, this might be a simple fire action sign posted in places where staff and other relevant people can read it and become familiar with what it says.
- High risk or large premises will need a more detailed emergency evacuation plan. This plan should take into account recommendations made in your fire risk assessment, for example, staff at significant risk and their location.
- In addition, notices should be prominently displayed giving clear and concise instructions of the routine to be followed in case of fire.
- It is vital your escape routes are kept clear at all times. We often see boxes piled high in corridors; in the event of fire, this could be deadly.
- Did you know that all employers are legally responsible for preventing smoking in the workplace? This duty to care to employees can be put under greater pressure at Christmas when ‘social smoking’ increases.
- Smoking is a serious fire safety issue: it is estimated that around 20% of workplace fires are started by cigarettes or discarded matches. This can lead to higher fire insurance premiums and long-term increased costs for your business.
- Ensure you have a company smoking policy in place and, if you have designated outdoor areas for smoking, check that employees are abiding by the rules.
- Candles are certainly festive, but a fire hazard if left unattended. We suggest you avoid them wherever possible in the workplace. Fairy lights are a great alternative but there are safety aspects to consider.
- Check they’re fitted with the correct fuses and replace all blown bulbs straight away.
- Don’t let the bulbs touch anything flammable, like paper.
- Don’t overload sockets, a common fire hazard.
- Remember to turn off all fairy lights when you leave the office unattended.
- Flame-effect battery operated candles are another great alternative to the real thing.
Before you leave the office for the Christmas break, check your kitchen is free of any hidden fire risks.
- Unplug all electrical items as this lowers the risk of an electrical fire.
- If you use deep fat fryers, arrange for them to be emptied and cleaned. What’s more, a thorough deep clean of all ducting and grease traps is an added safety bonus.
- Check and test your gas guard system or isolate the gas supply.
- Ensure fire shutters and fire doors are closed.
Remember to follow this advice all year round, not just at Christmas!
- Ensure your fire risk assessment is up to date and includes children as a user group.
- Invite the local fire service to visit you and talk to the children about fire safety. Young children love the experience and it’s a great learning opportunity.
- Carry out regular fire drills so that children get used to the sound of the fire alarm
- Children learn best through play, so why not use role play to educate children on fire safety?
- When fire breaks out in empty buildings, it can spread rapidly and be devastating. In the unfortunate event a fire breaks out in your business premises over the Christmas period, it’s essential that your fire alarm functions properly.
- Regular fire alarm testing is not only a sensible precaution, but also a requirement of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (which stipulates they should be carried out on a weekly basis).
- The ‘weekly test’ must be carried out in accordance with BS5839-PT1:2013 (annex 44.2). This standard makes detailed recommendations to help you understand what’s required.
- Weekly testing for most buildings will be carried out by maintenance staff. However, in a number of premises, local managers/’responsible persons’ are responsible for the weekly testing of the fire alarm system and the up keep of records.
- This test is in addition to the routine maintenance of your building’s alarm system that should be carried out by a professional fire safety company.
Fire doors save lives and property. Did you know it is a statutory requirement of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 that fire doors are inspected regularly in the workplace? Our checklist will help with your inspections at Christmas and all year round.
- Are all your fire doors, holders/closers certified?
- Are any doors or frames warped or twisted? Do they all close correctly?
- Is the gap around the frame consistent and no more than 3-4 mm?
- Are hinges firmly fixed into the door and frame with no missing screws?
- Do you have the correct seals at the top and sides of the door or in the frame? Are any damaged or missing?
- Are the glazing beads holding the glass fitted firmly?
- Are doors marked correctly with appropriate signage?
- Remember, fire doors are essential fire safety equipment. Never wedge them open.
- Defective fire doors cost lives. Make sure yours are up to the job!
Download our helpful 10 point safety check for fire doors.
Need some help?
If you are concerned about any aspect of your premises fire safety this Christmas, then Fire Safety Services can help your business. Call a member of our sales team on 08000 234114 or complete the form for a call back:
Christmas Fire Safety Enquiry
More about Christmas Fire Safety on our blog
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